When I was four years old, my sister suddenly sprouted drawing talents. She would pick up a magazine, and draw the girl on the front cover with ease and similitude that had my parents beaming. My mother would hold the art in her hands and remark,
" Ahh! Ki sundor ekechhey! Baah!" ["Ohh! So prettily drawn! Wow!]
Once she set it down, lovingly following it with her eyes, I would snatch it up to take a look. To be honest, it was indeed well done. For a girl my age, I surely didn't expect it from her. I was reluctant to admit my real sentiments.
" The nose is bloated!" , was all I said.
Steadily her drawings grew. Her talent sucked me in too. Even though I was a jealous spectator in the beginning, I soon became a peer artist. Together we would lay down our Camel pastel colors on the floor on a lazy Saturday afternoon. Our parents would be at work and we would be entrusted to our youngest aunt. She wasn't much into baby sitting as she was into cooking. It was very easy to find her spending the entire day in the kitchen - simply enjoying herself and her culinary escapades.
One of us would come up with the idea. It would invariably be me.
From childhood, I had been distinguished from my identical twin as the naughty one. I had broken more rules and blamed it on her than she could ever have. I had concealed the real story more often than my conscientious sibling, who broke down at the slightest frown from my mother. In short, I was more of a menace than her.
" Let's paint on the living room wall," I would say excitedly.
" It has the perfect shade of blue since the last time it got painted. We won't have to use the sky blue crayon at all!"
As if that was reason enough to get into this venture head first.
My sister wasn't moved. She wasn't exactly sure but in an undefined way, she felt it was wrong. Her conscience was forming at a much faster pace than mine. My undue zeal was not enough to drag her into it. I could have done it alone. But there is safety in numbers. You know, herd mentality. It is so much easier to say, " Enu started it, 'coz she is the artist!". My sister had already been unanimously acknowledged to travel far with her talents, so there was a high probability, she would get away, and with her, I would too.
" You drew that mountain scenary so well in class today. I think you should try it on a bigger canvas. It would look excellent. I would help you too!", I kept cajoling her. She finally gave in.
Armed with our crayons, we huddled close to the wall. Squatting on the floor, we set about painting a picture of something extraordinary.
Everytime I began a painting (to this day) , I have a vision of the final picture. That day, as I held the black color poised in my hand, I saw a village. The chimney was blowing smoke and near the fence guarding the hut, were two young boys, flying a multicolored kite. The birds flew along with the kite as the boys rejoiced in its lofty heights. A water pump served a beautiful belle with her water needs. She wore a red skirt, hitched up to her ankle, as she balanced two pots on her waist and her head. She had the most beautiful big eyes ever. Not far away, sat a man, observing this village routine. It had all been chalked out, in my mind's eye.
When I completed my work, a good hour later, my sister looked over her shoulder and remarked,
" Hee hee...what is that? a crooked cow?"
I frowned. There was no cow in the scene. Definitely not crooked. She assumed I didn't hear her from my puzzled silence. She decided to scoot over to my side and better explain herself.
" I meant this thing here, in front of the smoking train. Oooh! you seem to have got one velociraptor flying on a string - that's neat! Is that Jurassic Park? There are so many trees...", she trailed off, trying to decode my drawing. At this point, normal lily-livered seven year olds would have broken out into high pitched outbursts. I was strong. I simply smacked my sister on her head. She conformed to the norm and within two seconds, her cries roused the neighborhood. The rest is history. The village scene became the worst drawing I ever drew, just from the consequences itself.
Our repeated attempts on painting the living room wall caught our parent's attention. Punishments weren't enough to deter us ( definitely not me) so they came up with a better plan. Thanks to Mrs. Ghosh. She lived in the flat below.
One Sunday afternoon, she came visiting. She wanted sugar, but stayed over for tea, snacks and appetizers. Throughout her stay, she commented on the sad plight of the house.
" It looks horrible!" she said undisguisedly. She rebelled against the good guest rules.
" They ruined your painting job. And you guys paid so much for those Asian paints people, no? My Boombaa would never do that. He listens to my every word." She paused, beaming to an audience who weren't feeling as good about letting her stay.
" You know what? My Boombaa's classmate was as rowdy as your twins. His parents tried everything and then they put him in school. The drawing school! There's one in our neighborhood - Chitramukul. Why don't you take these two there?"
My parents saw the merit in her proposal, soon after she departed. My dad was made in charge of dragging us down there and getting us enrolled. Promptly on Sunday, at 9 am, we held our dad's hand on either side and made our way to "Chitramukul". The classes started right away. The head master was a balding beaming guy, who greeted us by pinching our chubby cheeks!
" They are in good hands, Mr. Chattopadhyay." He said with unnerving confidence.
" Just come back to collect them at 11".
With great relief and over alarcrity, my dad ran back home, abandoning us in a strange school.
Seven years later, we bid good bye to our drawing alma mater. It was the best artistic years of my life. There were no dearth of things to draw, techniques to learn, styles to try and instructors to admire. Amongst these budding artists, I felt alive. My sister outshone me in the classes and competitions. She would collect all the first prizes, while I came a close second. At regular school, we were soon recognized as good painters. We participated and nurtured our talents, on canvases and easles, far bigger than the living room wall. The beaming headmaster would continue smiling at us. He kept encouraging us, as he did his every student.
It was a small establishment. The instructors were poorly paid and the students came from various backgrounds. Several couldn't afford to pay the fees. But Chitramukul catered to one and all. It was a common ground for people, passionate about painting. I saw a boy, unable to afford palattes and yet painted such breathtaking scenaries. I was amazed at my lack of talents in their midst. I had the best brushes, palettes, drawing paper and colors - yet my picture would never come alive like his did.
For seven years we nurtured our skills and bettered it.
Colors still make me weak. Walking into Michaels or Joann's has me wandering like a child in Disneyland. Filled with joy - expecting something miraculous round the corner. I always end up buying colors and sketch books. On some weekends, when my laundry and vacuuming are done, I open my book. Spreading out my pastels, I pause.
This time, the village scene is clearer.
But as I paint it, I know my sister cannot just walk over and mock it. A part of me leaves the picture incomplete. On my next India trip, I will finish it, in her presence. Let's see if she will still see the crooked cow in the pretty damsel!